Police have opened an investigation into the alleged leaking of diplomatic cables involving the outgoing UK ambassador to Washington, Sir Kim Darroch.
Scotland Yard said its counter-terrorism command, which takes national responsibility for investigating allegations of criminal breaches of the Official Secrets Act, was leading the investigation.
Darroch resigned as the country’s envoy in the USA on Wednesday after the Tory leadership candidate, Boris Johnson, publicly refused to explicitly support him over the revelation that the ambassador had been heavily critical of the US president, Donald Trump, in private communications with London.
“Given the widely reported consequences of that leak, I am satisfied that there has been damage caused to UK international relations, and there would be clear public interest in bringing the person or people responsible to justice,” said the Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, Neil Basu.
The Cabinet Office undertook an investigation in the immediate aftermath of the story’s publication by the Mail on Sunday and police were subsequently called in. On Friday, officers demanded that the person or people responsible for the alleged leak hand themselves in.
“I would say to the person or people who did this, the impact of what you have done is obvious. However, you are now also responsible for diverting busy detectives from undertaking their core mission. You can stop this now. Turn yourself in at the earliest opportunity, explain yourself and face the consequences,” Basu said.
“Also, to anyone who knows or suspects those responsible, or who has any information, please come forward.”
He added a warning to media organisations that they could be in breach of the law if they published further details from the cables. “The publication of leaked communications, knowing the damage they have caused or are likely to cause may also be a criminal matter.
“I would advise all owners, editors and publishers of social and mainstream media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, her majesty’s government.”